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Michael Egnor: Atheist Claims about logical fallacies often just mean: Shut Up!

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Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor notes that in his recent debate with atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty the latter accuses theists of “the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity” because theists examine his claims and find them incredible.

He explained:

Atheist rhetoric is a mish mash of ignorance, denial and pretense, often mingled with explicit or implicit efforts at censorship. Atheists travel in herds—contrary to their own inflated sense of their ‘freethought’ and ‘skepticism’, they are the most gullible idealogues. In debate with atheists, specific themes show up again and again, and atheist accusation of ‘the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity’ is among the most common, usually aimed at Christians who challenge atheist arguments…

Michael Egnor, “Atheist Claims about logical fallacies often just mean: Shut Up!” at Mind Matters News

Matt Dillahunty invoked ‘the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity’ in our recent debate.

It’s worthwhile examining what this ‘fallacy’ is and why atheists invoke it. This is a common definition:

Argument from Incredulity
(also known as: argument from personal astonishment, argument from personal incredulity, personal incredulity)

Description: Concluding that because you can’t or refuse to believe something, it must not be true, improbable, or the argument must be flawed. This is a specific form of the argument from ignorance.

Logical Form:

Person 1 makes a claim.

Person 2 cannot believe the claim.

Person 2 concludes, without any reason besides he or she cannot believe or refuses to believe it, that the claim is false or improbable. –

“Argument From Personal Incredulity” Logically Fallacious

If you are a bit perplexed by this “fallacy,” you’re on the right track. It’s nonsense, as we will see.

All beliefs are based on reasons of some sort, and all statements of belief are propositions—assertions that can be true or false. That is, statements of belief are opinions.

To “argue from personal incredulity” means to state an opinion — i.e. to say “I don’t believe X.”

Opinions are inferences. Inferences connect evidence from experience to the best explanation, using some kind of formal reasoning. Both the evidence and the reasoning on which an opinion is based may be strong or weak. Some opinions are more reasonable than others.

Yet all opinions are based, in one way or another, on experience and reason. The experience may be careful systematic scientific experimentation or a lifetime of observation and reflection — or a mostly emotional reaction to a situation. The reasoning behind an opinion may be meticulous formal logic or slipshod hunches — or overtly fallacious logic.

It’s noteworthy that many good opinions are based on fallacies.


Takehome: In Egnor’s view, what atheists fear most is having to explain themselves, and the invocation of fictitious “fallacies” is one of their favorite ways to evade scrutiny.


The debate to date:

  1. Debate: Former atheist neurosurgeon vs. former Christian activist. At Theology Unleashed, each gets a chance to state his case and interrogate the other. In a lively debate at Theology Unleashed, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and broadcaster Matt Dillahunty clash over the existence of God.
  2. A neurosurgeon’s ten proofs for the existence of God. First, how did a medic, formerly an atheist, who cuts open people’s brains for a living, come to be sure there is irrefutable proof for God? In a lively debate at Theology Unleashed, Michael Egnor and Matt Dillahunty clash over “Does God exist?” Egnor starts off.
  3. Atheist Dillahunty spots fallacies in Christian Egnor’s views. “My position is that it’s unacceptable to believe something if the available evidence does not support it.” Dillahunty: We can’t conclusively disprove an unfalsifiable proposition. And that is what most “God” definitions, at least as far as I can tell, are.
  4. Egnor now tries to find out what Dillahunty actually knows… About philosophical arguments for the existence of God, as he begins a rebuttal. Atheist Dillahunty appears unable to recall the philosophical arguments for God’s existence, which poses a challenge for Egnor in rebutting him.
  5. Egnor, Dillahunty dispute the basic causes behind the universe. In a peppery exchange, Egnor argues that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as proofs in science. If the universe begins in a singularity (where Einstein’s equations break down), what lies behind it? Egnor challenges Dillahunty on that.
  6. Is Matt Dillahunty using science as a crutch for his atheism? That’s neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s accusation in this third part of the debate, which features a continued discussion of singularities, where conventional “laws of nature” break down. If the “supernatural” means “outside of conventional nature,” Michael Egnor argues, science routinely accepts it, based on evidence.
  7. Dillahunty asks 2nd oldest question: If God exists, why evil? In the debate between Christian neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty, the question of raping a baby was bound to arise.
    Egnor argues that there is an objective moral law against such acts; Dillahunty argues, no, it is all just human judgment.

You may also wish to read:

Science can and does point to God’s existence. Michael Egnor: Natural science is not at all methodologically naturalist — it routinely points to causes outside of nature. If we are to understand natural effects, we must be open to all kinds of causes, including causes that transcend nature.

The Divine Hiddenness argument against God’s existence = nonsense. God in Himself is immeasurably greater than we are, and He transcends all human knowledge. A God with whom we do not struggle — who is not in some substantial and painful way hidden to us — is not God but is a mere figment of our imagination.
and

Atheist Claims about logical fallacies often just mean: Shut Up! In the recent debate, Matt Dillahunty accuses theists of “the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity” because we examine his claims and find them incredible. What atheists fear most is having to explain themselves, and the invocation of fictitious “fallacies” is one of their favorite ways to evade scrutiny.

22 Replies to “Michael Egnor: Atheist Claims about logical fallacies often just mean: Shut Up!

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Atheist rhetoric is a mish mash of ignorance, denial and pretense, often mingled with explicit or implicit efforts at censorship. Atheists travel in herds—contrary to their own inflated sense of their ‘freethought’ and ‘skepticism’, they are the most gullible idealogues. In debate with atheists, specific themes show up again and again, and atheist accusation of ‘the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity’ is among the most common, usually aimed at Christians who challenge atheist arguments…

    Michael Egnor, “Atheist Claims about logical fallacies often just mean: Shut Up!” at Mind Matters News

    I wonder if Egnor realizes that, when he stereotypes, demonizes and vilifies atheist as a group, he is committing the same illogical and morally reprehensible offense as when conservatives do the same with liberals, when whites did – and still do – the same with peoples of different skin colors or when many cultures do the same with Jews?

  2. 2
    Origenes on vacation says:

    Stereotyping, demonizing & vilifying conservatives and whites, Seversky? Don’t you know that’s a morally reprehensible offense?

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    News, the issue is not personal incredulity but warrant or the lack thereof. Here, warrant that one in the atheist’s shoes can know — have warranted, credibly true [so, reliable] belief — there is no God or that one knows there is no reasonable reason to take his existence as a serious consideration. I find that the far more relevant fallacy is selective hyperskepticism by such . . . and too often that of the closed mind, based on years of observation. Perhaps, it is time for a fresh reflection starting with logic of being [including necessary being at root of reality and framework to any possible world], accounting for our world and for our rational responsible freedom. In that conversation the point that God is necessary being as understood, will be key. What reason do atheists have to consider that God is not a serious candidate NB or else that he is impossible of being, esp post the Plantinga free will defence. KF

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, I think Egnor, a former atheist himself, is summarising fairly typical observations. There are exceptions, which may be material [thank God], but regrettably he sums up a fairly familiar type too often found online; often typified by the so called new atheist. The pose on being THE bright, the linked snide suggestion that the despised other is ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, the suggestion that a religious upbringing under responsible ethical theism is child abuse, the attempt to invidiously associate Christian faith with racism or nazism, the attempt to pretend the Christian influence on our civilisation was only or overwhelmingly adverse and/or oppressive [ponder, rise of liberty and the double covenant view of nationhood and government under God, the roots of modern science, scholarship and much more], and so forth are only a few cases in point. KF

  5. 5
    jerry says:

    I wonder if Egnor realizes that, when he stereotypes, demonizes and vilifies atheist as a group, he is committing the same illogical and morally reprehensible offense as when conservatives do the same with liberals, when whites did – and still do – the same with peoples of different skin colors or when many cultures do the same with Jews?

    If any of this is true, one would think there would be evidence of it. Not just assertions.

    I commented recently that there wasn’t one coherent argument for atheism by anyone in The NY Times comments criticizing Douthat’s article defending theism. Is this group completely unread?

    Then there is Stephen Hawking’s inability to defend atheism other that to assert God does not exist. Read last chapter of Meyer’s book on God hypothesis.

    It’s not a logical fallacy when one argues from zero evidence to no evidence after extensive investigation. Eventually something might appear but in the meantime zero evidence is logical justification especially when there’s lot of evidence for the opposite.

  6. 6
    chuckdarwin says:

    Egnor should stick to fixing aneurisms and slipped disks

  7. 7
    jerry says:

    Egnor should stick to fixing aneurisms and slipped disks

    Another prescient comment validating ID.

    I believe ChuckDarwin is !00% or very close to it in making specious comments.

  8. 8
    chuckdarwin says:

    Jerry
    I challenge you to make the case why this is really worth serious comment:

    Atheist rhetoric is a mish mash of ignorance, denial and pretense, often mingled with explicit or implicit efforts at censorship. Atheists travel in herds—contrary to their own inflated sense of their ‘freethought’ and ‘skepticism’, they are the most gullible idealogues (sic).

    Not only can the learned doctor not spell, his comments are nothing but an intemperate rant that make no effort to engage in serious discussion.

  9. 9
    Querius says:

    Chuckdarwin @8,

    Not only can the learned doctor not spell . . .

    See https://www.askdifference.com/idealogue-vs-ideologue/

    -Q

  10. 10
    chuckdarwin says:

    Querius
    You are right, I stand corrected. My apologies to all. I guess it depends on usage–whether you view atheism as an ideology or a flight of fancy. And I’m sure there is a case to be made for either or, perhaps, both.

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    challenge you to make the case why this is really worth serious comment:

    Is anything Egnor said untrue.

    I’ve often said I never met an honest atheist. Is that untrue? Certainly seems like something to be challenged by demonstrating or showing an atheist who is honest.

    Have you met an honest atheist?

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    Kairosfocus/4

    Sev, I think Egnor, a former atheist himself, is summarising fairly typical observations. There are exceptions, which may be material [thank God], but regrettably he sums up a fairly familiar type too often found online; often typified by the so called new atheist. The pose on being THE bright, the linked snide suggestion that the despised other is ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, the suggestion that a religious upbringing under responsible ethical theism is child abuse, the attempt to invidiously associate Christian faith with racism or nazism, the attempt to pretend the Christian influence on our civilisation was only or overwhelmingly adverse and/or oppressive [ponder, rise of liberty and the double covenant view of nationhood and government under God, the roots of modern science, scholarship and much more], and so forth are only a few cases in point. KF

    If there were any excesses in the celebrations of so-called New Atheism, they should be understood in the context of the centuries of persecution in which the mere profession of atheist sentiments could cost you your life, a situation which still obtains in some parts of the world.

    The controversial passage from The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins encapsulates the inconsistencies and contradictions in Christian doctrine which, to be fair, some of the faith’s best minds have addressed even though many others prefer to ignore.

    Unfortunately, the faith is done no favors by the hubris of those who claim that Christianity is the sole author of modern science, modern concepts of representative democracy and moral principles. While many Christians undoubtedly contributed a great deal to the development of these fields of endeavor, their origins are more complex and their roots can be traced further back than the onset of Christianity and to other parts of the world and other cultures. Pretending otherwise is dishonest and no part of Christian belief.

  13. 13
    Seversky says:

    Jerry/5

    I commented recently that there wasn’t one coherent argument for atheism by anyone in The NY Times comments criticizing Douthat’s article defending theism. Is this group completely unread?

    Then there is Stephen Hawking’s inability to defend atheism other that to assert God does not exist. Read last chapter of Meyer’s book on God hypothesis.

    The arguments for atheism are the inconsistencies and contradictions in Christian doctrine. If Christians are unable to address those to my satisfaction then I’m entitled to argue that they have failed to provide a compelling case for their beliefs. In other words, they haven’t convinced me to believe in their God. It’s called the burden of proof. You can try to wriggle out from under but if you want me to believe in your God you’re going to have to give me good reasons for doing it.

  14. 14
    Querius says:

    Chuckdarwin,
    On behalf of the Spelling Integrity Constabulary (SIC), we accept your deepest and most sincere apology.

    However we would still advise cautionary checking of posts to avoid entanglement and reprimands from the Punctuation Police and the Grammar Nazis!

    We should also mention care to avoid logical blunders, wild assertions, and vacuous tropes that might possibly lead to more serious charges of Felony Mind Slaughter and even end up like Seversky!

    -Q

  15. 15
    jerry says:

    The arguments for atheism are the inconsistencies and contradictions in Christian doctrine.

    This is one of the most bogus comments ever. What has atheism to do with Christianity?

    I understand that if Christianity is true then that obviates atheism. But if Christianity is not valid, that has nothing to do with whether there is a creator or not.

    Logic:.
    P – Christianity true; Q – God exists
    P=> Q
    Not P says nothing about Q or not Q.

  16. 16
    Querius says:

    Jerry @15,

    As I said, Felony Mind Slaughter. In the first degree! LOL

    -Q (or sometimes Q)

  17. 17
    zweston says:

    Seversky, your last comment on evidence against Christianity is evidence for atheism is quite telling. It seems you just have it out for Christianity when it comes down to it. This is an emotional rejection, not based on evidence.

    Is it ultimately really true that people just really don’t want God telling them how to live?

    You can have theological questions and confusion and struggles (that’s allowed in Christianity!), but that doesn’t negate that Jesus rose from the dead beyond any reasonable doubt.

    (or please present your evidential case that he didn’t raise from the dead, based on lots of manuscripts, eyewitness testimony, a body…)

    There is no need to fear the implications of Jesus raising from the dead. This is great news! Eternal life! Repent and Trust Christ. He still welcomes you!

  18. 18
    ram says:

    Seversky: the arguments for atheism are the inconsistencies and contradictions in Christian doctrine.

    And Jewish doctrine and Muslim doctine and Hindu doctrine and Buddhist doctrine… ?

    Well, forget all that then.

    I have to ask, why are you here on this website?

    What do you hope to gain with your participation here?

    What other websites do you participate in, in your search for answers?

    -Ram

  19. 19
    Origenes on vacation says:

    Seversky, can we equate atheism with materialism?

    For me it is clear that materialism cannot be true — and I have given several simple arguments to back up my claim.
    So, in my view, it can be Christianity or something else [with the exception of materialism]. “Something else” can be a God who is not omnipotent, omnipresent and so on. Or it can be the case that a group of wise powerful persons is running things from a spiritual realm. It can be the case that “sin” is not as important as Christianity claims it is. I am open to those possibilities.

    But I have ruled out materialism. Why haven’t you?

  20. 20
    Hanks says:

    The existence of The Hierarchy of Values inside every human being proves the existence of God . Doesn’t matter who or what is in the top of the hierarchy, in itself the existence or hierarchy is enough.
    Discussion closed.
    The war between ideas=the war between hierarchies =hierarchies exist=every hierarchy has a supreme value=a hierarchy of all supreme values has an objective supreme value=That Supreme Value founded “The Hierarchy concept” that live in any human .

  21. 21
    hnorman42 says:

    Regarding the question of an “argument from incredulity” I’m not sure such a thing exists in a practical sense. Every sentence spoken in a debate is not necessarily an argument. An expression of incredulity is a comment – not an argument. To be incredulous because of the evidence is not an argument from incredulity. To make an argument from incredulity you have to represent your incredulity itself as the evidence – rather than the fruit of evidence.

  22. 22

    Very true. Atheists always assert there are the logical fallacies, but they never demonstrate them. Also atheists let other atheists get away with anything, never criticize their own, because they are with their group.

    The reason why atheists are disgusting, dishonest people, is because atheists don’t understand about emotions and personal character.

    Atheists don’t understand about what is subjective, they only understand about what is objective.

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